This review originally published on the Rogue Cinema site, in December 2015, with a view count of 1,577 however present here with an update concerning the Blu-ray release from Shout Factory.
First, this is one of the most offensive and notorious films of the early 1980s to storm on the silver screen concerning the holiday season, especially attacking the image of Santa Claus, which sent parent groups into a frenzy of protests demanding the removal of the movie, some ordered the destruction of the movie, thankfully never came to fruition. Director Charles E. Sellier, who passed in 2011, presented not the first Christmas slasher move, others held that mantle, such as Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) and Black Christmas (1974), and the vengeful attitude focus the killer wore the legendary loveable Santa suit. Also, what stands out, in the legacy of horror films, is that a week later, and after the removal of this movie, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) opened at the box office, and no protests appeared. Hence, the approval nod, of a child killer wearing the Christmassy red and green sweater graced the screens and went on to become an icon to many. However, to the dismay of conservative organizations Sellier’s earned a rightful place at the time as a cult version in video stores thanks to the demands of the fans and the VHS. In the end, the opening segment of the film, presented a stellar and frightening grim representation of society’s sickness of Santa committing pure savagery to his father and unleashing a violent sexual assault of young Billy’s mother occurring in front his eyes. All of it effectively probing and displaying fears of deserted roads at night, and the monsters the lurk waiting to harm the unsuspecting.
As the movie builds the backstory, which some think takes too long, much needed to explore the trauma to Billy (Jonathan Best), however that means starting even further back with his parents were going to a Utah State Mental Hospital to visit his Grandpa (Will Hare) who appears in a catatonic trance, and they leave Billy with him. Only to have him awaken long enough to frighten poor Billy, who is in store for dreadful night of hell, and most definitely longer. After his parents died, Billy and his baby brother (Melissa Best) go to an orphanage ruled by sadistic Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin), who earns the disrespect of every viewer of the movie, for brutality to Billy. By the year 1984, he leaves the group home and earns his own way, with the help Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick), at a toy store, and performs as a perfect employee. As Christmas approaches and the store Santa calls Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) into service as the youngest and thinnest Santa ever, nevertheless the moment triggers the past all the suspense trying to get traction disappears and creates a full-blown slasher spree for the delight of horror fans.
Once Billy goes into the full ranging psychopath, the care of many cascades away, and leaves the audience whether to support him or trying to root for someone, and in lies the rub, no one else left except hope he returns to see Mother Superior. However, he makes many stops along the way, and becomes a Jason Voorhees of sorts, using so many different tools to hack, cut, strangle, slit and stab his victims. Herein, this portion the male dominated audience enjoys the scene of Linnea Quigley’s rack having a double exposure for all to hang their hats on for the joy of Christmas, a scene recreated in Dave Campfield’s Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas (2012) a fitting homage. A few critics become upset with the tiresome tirade to following a number of disposal individuals, whom no one knows anything about and no one cares, therefore why even bother having them in the film in the first place. However, I would tend to disagree, first this a slasher movie, not much of the viewers are debating the reasons for the killing, although the same premise fits another holiday classic, such as Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer (1964). No explanation explains why Santa does not take the time to fix the misfit toys, and why which child gets the train with square wheels, and how it affects them. The reason, it does not pertain to the overall storyline, as with this subgenre, the cheerful slaying, slaughtering and slashing delights the fans with glee.
The trauma that plagued the lead actor in his backstory, gave a true realistic mannerism to his hidden triggers conveying dark drama early in the movie, unknowing Sellier switches gears and performs unapologetic, unremorseful brutality upon all of his victims, with unbridled passion for lustful destruction. Perhaps hinting that Christmas is an illusion for happenings, often newscasts show grown adults having fights and temper tantrums over ridiculous items meant to bring joy, only to result in vicious violence. The movie continues to age well, and earned a special engagement release last year to honor the 30th Anniversary of the movie, no protests noted nationwide, likely the controversy over the panic from 1984 died out for all those concerned by it.
The Blu-Ray release, standard or deluxe edition, the difference aside from costs, the deluxe version, limited to 2,000 units, with a Collector’s Edition slipcover, an 18” x 24” newly designed poster from artist Joel Robinson and a limited edition 8” tall spot-on look of the Billy Chapman figurine by NECA, sold out on December 7, 2017. Aside from that, this set includes so much gore and other sick delights packaged in an uncut version in 4K scan enhances all the offensive delights and vile conjuring., finishing off with four new extras, the original theatrical movie. All worth a blood-soaked stocking!
This movie will not disappoint the average horror fan that seeks a return and longs for the brutality of morbid twists and intense murders, leaping higher than the normal slasher stylizations found in modern horror. As a fan of the film, I have the original movie poster, and with a sale at Fright Rags purchased both a t-shirt and hoodie, which arrived on the same day as the deluxe version, while snow gently fell, just no bloodstains on the snow yet. In addition, only a CD version available of the infamous and twisted soundtrack, released on vinyl in 2014, from Death Waltz Recording on a highly limited 400-copies. Simply with an outlandish movie, which grew a franchise of four sequels and a remake of insane proportions in 2012, this definitely needs a viewing during your holidays and especially on Christmas, and if you don’t Santa may just consider that you are… “Naughty… Naughty”.
IMDb Rating: 5.9/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10